Connecting the Dots 2013

As my acquaintances, friends, and family know me, I have a diverse range of skills and talent for creating all kinds of products. From carpentry, to software development, to web design, to project management, to video production, I can produce products that people appreciate and use. Well, a few months ago, I realized that I was missing an important piece that connects all these diverse product sets. Of course, the web is the most important marketing venue these days and the piece I was missing was branding and content marketing.

Well, this Fall, my dear friend Jill Musson Williams asked if I could help her increase her video and written content for her company Cracker Creek. I had no specific ideas what she wanted but had helped in the past and wanted to continue doing so. Besides, she said she wanted to pay for my services.

As it turned out, Jill had discussed increasing sales at Cracker Creek with others in her community and they suggested she increase the online content to market their products, both written and visual. I had an idea what that entailed but I didn’t have any scope for how far to go and exactly what to do.

Along popped up this article from Social Media Today talking about the new Google Hummingbird algorithm that is supposed to comprehend and process a broader range of data and how it “de-emphasizes specific keywords in the search/search results schema in favor of semantic searching.” Then in that same article, it mentions how to use the web to increase marketing channels and connect with web users and buyers. It went as far as to say “content marketing so helpful people would pay you for it.” A book called Youtility appeared on my screen and after downloading a Kindle ebook copy, I read it to learn how to connect all my skills and talents to market a product, online. Cracker Creek was the perfect opportunity for me to build a case study for marketing my skills.

Some of the concepts I learned included charts as displayed below that are from both Youtility and Epic Content Marketing.

Sources of Information ECM Hub of content ownership ECM Content Atomization

From those two books, I was able to create a Marketing Plan and Business Plan for Cracker Creek using an automated prezi presentation. But they needed results and to do that I needed a way to measure traffic with a focus on inbound traffic into Daytona, a much higher recognized brand over Port Orange, where they are located. The Daytona-brand location would increase their exposure and competition, however, target those interested in Old Florida, tropical ecosystems, kayaking and canoeing, and tours. Besides the location, Cracker Creek had created several names such as Cracker Creek Canoeing, crackercreek@oldfloridapioneer.com, and just Cracker Creek.

So, I had my work cut out for me. I needed to expand the Cracker Creek presence on the web and focus the products for search engine optimization. As I had researched the different web services targeting audiences and product marketing sites to learn user popularity, I started putting Cracker Creek on the maps of watercraft launch sites, campgrounds, road trippers, and boat rental sites. I also added links on the Cracker Creek website to different vendor’s mobile apps that were applicable to the Cracker Creek products, such as knot typing apps for campers.

Having tested Google webtools with another friend’s website, I setup Cracker Creek to recognize the Cracker Creek sitemap. Then I installed Google Analytics to start collecting accurate statistics and reporting results. However, since there were no statistics before my changes to the website, we could not see historic results prior to my website updates. Below is the graph directly from the Google Analytics view of the Cracker Creek website.

GoogleAnalyticsDec13

Now being new to the Google world of the internet, I learned that their software still has bugs and on many occasions, I had to wait a few days before Google cleaned up it’s data. For instance, below are two message windows about logging into Google Analytics within seconds of each other.

Attempt to get password sent to email addressAttempt to get password sent to email address  Attempt to create new email addressAttempt to create new email address

This kind of dysfunctional behavior also happened with a file called robot.txt where the “test” resulted in being blocked from analyzing a public website. Another when sitemap couldn’t find the server which became frequent as I setup different aspects of Google web tools. The example below is when trying to setup the Cracker Creek using tags associated with the image and text on the page as part of the semantic algorithm.

TaggingErrorThese kinds of anomalies continued to hit me across the web. Be it a rental site that on a mobile device displaying all prices at hundreds of dollars too high, even to purchase a vessel like displayed in the ad, or fixing driving directions on Google maps where it takes visitors to a residential neighborhood instead of Cracker Creek.

Besides that, I had to have multiple identities to work on Cracker Creek accounts as well as my own personal sites. This created a delay in the creation of a Cracker Creek business account and website on LinkedIn where my first attempts failed to deliver the activation email. Finally solved this one by changing the LinkedIn email address to mine so I could activate and create the Cracker Creek business page.

I have since worked through most of the outstanding issues and we are now linked to the major social media sites with icons prominent on the home and contact pages, as illustrated below. In the lower picture, you can see the floating left social media bar courtesy of a Joomla! plug-in that illuminates the social media icon when the mouse hovers over them. The Zap Weather forecast window shows a week’s predicted. The weather forecast window and the Tide Forecast window, not shown below, are tools to help people decide to go fishing, kayaking, or just a day out canoeing down the creek. That was my attempt to provide “marketing so helpful people would pay for it” by visiting Cracker Creek.

SocialMediaIcons

CrackerCreekLowerHomePage

To measure the website’s improvements, I took a snapshot of the hubspot.com Market Grader application’s analyzer in October and today I took another. You can see in the snapshots below that the website’s marketing score has increased almost double from what it was when I started.

October 2013

October 2013

December 2013

December 2013

And finally, for the sake of content marketing, I just finished adding the voiceover for an online marketing campaign focusing the values of Cracker Creek for elementary students. This video required me to attend two events with local third grade classes and another event to record the different options available for teachers, organizations, and parents. To view a preliminary version, click on the image below.

In closing, this project has connected all the dots in my skills and talents pool. I created a chart to show the different roles and product learning curves I’ve accomplished for this project since September 2013, illustrated below. The difference today versus 5 years ago is now all of these tools are in high definition.

Connecting-the-dots-diagram

As for results, I’ve been credited with increased inbound marketing from Google searches that have brought in customers and created a reservation for 40 visitors in January, from Illinois. Thus, our target market. After two months, Google Analytics shows the site is still getting 80% and more new unique visitors, and we’ve yet to start online transactions that will take some time to integrate into their business operations and management.

Update 24 January 2014:  Over the last month, I’ve worked on the Florida Department of Environmental Protection Designated Paddling Map for Spruce Creek. In it was old and misinformation about the area and no mention of Cracker Creek being an access point. Today, they published the new map and copy which now includes links to Cracker Creek and more information about Gamble Place and the Russell Property that share residence on the creek. Click on the image below to see the Volusia County website and scroll down to Spruce Creek to see the full document.

SpruceCreek_guide

Cracker Creek and the Age of Digital Maps

I’ve had an iPhone for several years and during this time I worked as a volunteer for a local 501c3 charity organization called ECO-Action that met weekly at different locations across central Florida. One of my responsibilities was to be the captain and drive a trailer with 11 canoes to the different launch sites.

There were times when I would have been late had I not had a GPS map on my phone. In addition, after I started working on the eco-action.net website, I created pages containing instructions on how to find the different launch sites and best directions for getting there. For this, I used Google Maps and put a large yellow arrow pointing to the area where the canoes would be when the volunteers arrived.

But what’s become a regular storytelling assistance is animating maps to show how we travel in a foreign place. My short animation below is an example of our tour boat traveling from one location to another on the Amazon river.

Cracker Creek uses a similar online map to show its visitors the different directions and distance when renting kayaks, canoes, or hydrobikes as well as their tour boats. Using the automated map below, Cracker Creek shows the path where visitors will be traveling.

In 2011, I also created a map to show the place I’ve traveled. Using Google Maps, I was able to record me spinning the globe to each continent I’ve visited.

Going back to ECO-Action and a Public Service Announcement I made for a contest, I needed a way to show where volunteers attended cleanups over the years. Again using Google Maps, I used the same arrow to show all the different places across Central Florida where we cleaned up the waterways.

Going back to 2002, I have been creating animated maps for my short movies to help communicate where I’ve been and how we got there. It will be interesting to see how many more maps I might make.